how to select a mobile device

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how to select a mobile device

The mobile world is full of choices as summarized in the following platform lists (names in parentheses are hardware vendors). Remember, "One size does not fit all" in the portable computing world.

Smartphone Platforms
1. iPhone (Apple)
2. Android (Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc.)
3. Windows Phone (Nokia, HTC, etc.)
Worldwide smartphone shipments are approximately 85% Android, 14% iPhone and 1% Windows.

Tablet Platforms
1. iPad (Apple)
2. Android (Samsung, Acer, Amazon, etc.)
3. Windows 10 (Samsung, Microsoft, Dell, etc.)

Laptop Platforms
1. Windows (HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, etc. etc.)
2. Mac (Apple)
3. Chromebook (Samsung, Acer)

Smartphones Vs. Tablets
The major differences are phone-ability and portability. Smartphones are telephones; tablets are not, and like any cellphone, most people have their smartphones nearby at all times. Tablets do virtually everything a smartphone does except make voice calls via a cellular carrier. However, Skype and other phone apps can make voice calls over the Internet. See smartphone features, smartphone operating system and tablet computer.

Figure Out Your Storage Requirement
One of the best things about smartphones and tablets is that they can be used as a portable media album, holding thousands of photos and hundreds of videos. Although they all have built-in storage, many devices have an SD Card slot for more. If you plan on taking a lot of pictures or videos, compute your storage requirements carefully. If your device does not accept additional storage, be sure to buy the unit with the built-in space you will need later. See SD Card.

Wi-Fi Vs. Cellular
All mobile devices have Wi-Fi, which requires a hotspot for Internet access. Since smartphones are cellphones, they can access the Internet in any location a cellphone call can be made. For data access (e-mail, Web, etc.), users typically use Wi-Fi at home or in a free hotspot and employ the cellular network when a hotspot is not available (switching is automatic).

Most tablet vendors offer an extra-cost model with cellular capability in addition to Wi-Fi. However, if the tablet has Wi-Fi only, a Wi-Fi hotspot can be generated on the road with a portable device or smartphone (see cellular hotspot).

What's a Phablet?
A phablet (phone-tablet) is a smartphone with at least a 5" screen. Although bulkier, the larger screen and keyboard are more comfortable for Web surfing and other activities. See phablet.

Tablets Vs. Laptops
The differences are weight, battery and keyboard. Tablets weigh one to two pounds; laptops two to six. Models vary greatly but the battery in a tablet usually lasts longer than a laptop. See Ultrabook and laptop.

Tablets are also less convenient for multitasking than laptops, which operate like desktop computers. In 2017, Apple made its iPad tablet more like a laptop/desktop. Drag and drop and other changes made it easier to switch apps and copy data between them (see iOS 11 in iOS versions).

For touch typists, nothing beats typing on a high-quality keyboard. Tablets offer an on-screen touch keyboard that can become tiresome, and the keyboards integrated into the tablet cover vary greatly in quality. A variety of external keyboards for both tablets and laptops are available. Tablet keyboards connect via Bluetooth, while laptop keyboards plug into a USB port.

Windows Vs. Mac
For decades, the personal computer world has been Windows versus Mac. The single advantage of Windows is the huge variety of desktop and laptop models over a wide price range. Software is usually written for Windows first and Mac second.

The Mac advantage is the consistency of its user interface without dramatic changes in each new version. In addition, utilities such as routine backup and migrating an old Mac to a new one are built in and easy to use. The Mac is also more resistant to viruses than Windows. However, no platform is impenetrable; as the Mac gains market share, it also becomes a target. See Windows vs. Mac.

The Chromebook Laptop
Google's Chromebook is a low cost (USD $200 and up) laptop computer that uses the Internet for everything. Essentially a Web browser that stores all data on Google servers, an online connection is required most of the time. For Web surfing and e-mail, the Chromebook is a viable choice (see Chromebook and Chromebook Pixel). In 2017, Microsoft introduced its own alternative to the Chromebook (see Windows 10 S).

When you purchase a mobile device, you have chosen a specific platform that determines which apps you can run and which online app store you go to for free and paid downloads (see online app store). For example, you cannot run an Apple app (an iOS app) in an Android device and vice versa. While essential apps are available for all platforms, there is often a favorite app that runs on one platform but not another. For a comparison of app compatibility among mobile devices, see mobile compatibility.

Windows Tablets
Windows tablets run all the programs that work in Windows PCs. However, they generally do not have the battery life of Apple and Android tablets. Earlier Windows RT tablets had long battery life but did not run legacy programs and are now obsolete. Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft popularized the detachable laptop with a screen that becomes a tablet (see hybrid laptop). Another variant is the 2-in-1: a laptop that folds into a tablet (see convertible laptop). In contrast, Apple tablets (iPads) do not run the same programs as Mac computers.

What to Buy and How Much
Smartphones can be free or up to USD $300 with a data plan contract. They sell outright from $250 to $1,000. Monthly fees range from $25 to $90 and more. For people who want an emergency-only phone, pay-as-you-go plans are based on prepaid minutes and bytes of data transfer.

Tablets come in various sizes and a wide range of prices from USD $50 to $1,000 and more. If the tablet has cellular capability built in, cellular network fees start at $10 per month.

For the novice, the iPhone and iPad are very consistent and friendly. In the U.S., Apple has a higher user ratio, and more people know how to use it (you always need help). In addition, Apple support by phone and in the store is usually excellent. See iPhone and iPad.

Android phones and tablets are very popular and come in a huge variety of models from numerous vendors (Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, etc.), but the differences are sometimes confusing. This also means one Android user may not be able to help a friend with a different Android device (remember, you always need help). Nevertheless, the variety of features has made Android the best-selling smartphone worldwide. See Android, phablet and Android fragmentation.

Windows Phones are innovative and easy to use, but because they have a very small market share, there are fewer friends who can help you figure something out. See Windows Phone.

For the user who works exclusively with Windows applications and needs portability, a Windows laptop or tablet is a no brainer. See Surface tablet, Surface Laptop, hybrid laptop and convertible laptop.
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